The term BCAAs is an acronym standing for branched chain amino acids.
As we learned earlier, the three BCAAs, known as leucine, valine, and isoleucine, are all essential amino acids that cannot be made by the body.
Together, they make up more than 20% of your muscle mass, which is why there’s an ever-growing interest in the benefits of BCAA supplementation.
If your body were to run out of leucine, valine, and isoleucine, then it would no longer have the amino acids needed to form new muscle after a catabolic workout.
Fortunately, similar to whey protein, BCAAs have a respectable amount of research to support their use as a beneficial supplement.
Research has shown that BCAA supplements can help with building muscle, increased endurance, and faster recovery time.
BCAAs have also been studied in fat loss, and you can find those studies in our fat burners section.
Today, we’re going learn about the science behind BCAA supplements, starting with their potential ability to improve muscle building.
When it comes to this topic, leucine is by far the most studied of the 3 BCAAs.
BCAA’s effect on muscle protein synthesis or muscle building is to due to a complex process that involves cellular pathways.
Inside each of our cells, there are signaling elements (things with weird names like mTOR and Protein Kinase) that “talk” to each other and work to create changes within the body.
Basically, BCAAs have been shown to affect these cellular pathways that control muscle building in the body.
In one study, a protein drink with extra leucine was found to increase muscle protein synthesis by 33% when consumed during stead state exercise.
Another study by the Air Force Research laboratory found that a protein drink with added leucine was mildly effective at increasing strength and lean muscle compared to those who weren’t receiving the supplements.
Even more exciting than this is the research on BCAAs ability to increase endurance and decrease muscle soreness.
Japanese researchers found that prolonged BCAA supplementation before strenuous exercise increased endurance over time.
Juvenile athletes taking BCAAs and the amino acid, glutamine, experienced better recovery after intense rowing.
This means using a high-quality BCAA supplement at the right time could help speed up recovery after training.
When it comes to getting results from your BCAA supplement there are some factors that determine whether or not it will be effective.
The effectiveness of a BCAA supplement depends on both the timing and quality of the supplement.
BCAAs are used in a variety of different ways. In some cases, athletes only take BCAAs before strength training, while others use this supplement during or after a strenuous workout, as well as first thing in the morning or before bed.
If you want to increase muscle growth using a BCAA, the studies above demonstrated success mostly in pre, intra, or post workout dosages of 6 to 8 grams of BCAAs with higher amounts of leucine.
Based on the science, I always take my BCAAs before training and then continue to sip on my drink throughout my workout.
Taking BCAAs before a workout ensures amino acids are readily available for energy and helps keep your body in an anabolic environment.
By creating a condition of hyperaminoacidemia, which means having extra amino acids in your blood, you increase muscle protein synthesis and stimulate blood flow.
For those who also drink pre-workout, you can take them both simultaneously about 20 – 30 minutes prior to your workout.
Another reason I prefer BCAAs prior to/during my workout is because I always drink a whey protein shake packed with BCAAs after my workout. Since whey protein already contains a high concentration of amino acids, there may be less benefit as compared to drinking them before/during your workout.
What’s really interesting about BCAAs is that they’ve actually been used to aid in the treatment of some medical conditions, such as liver disease and anorexia.
This also means more data is available on the use of BCAAs in humans, which makes me happy =)
If there were one product I’d add to my supplement routine, it’d be BCAAs.
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